Food Waste Reduction Towards Food Sector Sustainability

Food Waste Reduction Towards Food Sector Sustainability

Giovanni Lagioia (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy), Vera Amicarelli (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy), Teodoro Gallucci (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy) and Christian Bux (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1042-1.ch008


FAO estimates on average more than 1.3 billion tons of food loss and waste (FLW) along the whole food supply chain (equivalent to one-third of total food production) of which more than 670 million tons in developed countries and approximately 630 million tons in developing ones, showing wide differences between countries. In particular, EU data estimates an amount of more than 85 million tons of FLW, equal to approximately 20% of total food production. This research presents two main goals. First, to review the magnitude of FLW at a global and European level and its environmental, social and economic implications. Second, use Material Flow Analysis (MFA) to support and improve FLW management and its application in an Italian potato industry case study. According to the case study presented, MFA has demonstrated the advantages of tracking input and output to prevent FLW and how they provide economic, social, and environmental opportunities.
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Since each human being needs energy and chemical products to maintain his vital signs and produce cells, skin, and bones, food plays a fundamental role in human life becoming an essential commodity for human feeding (Nebbia, 1995). However, since a huge percentage of food is wasted daily, a critical question comes to mind: is food available for all people on Earth?

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO] (2018), nowadays the world population amounts to approximately over 7.5 billion people, divided between rural (45%) and urban (55%) population. Moreover, a huge percentage is employed in agriculture, even with a sharp decrease between 1995 (more than 40%) and 2016 (under 27%).

Worldwide, the food production value exceeds $2.3 trillion with no homogeneous distribution (Table 1). More than 10% of the global population is undernourished because of severe food insecurity. Moreover, more than 22% of children under five suffer from stunting and more than 7% from wasting. Lastly, safely managed drinking water is used by approximately 70% of population. Thus, more than 30% people cannot access drinking water (FAO, 2018; FAO, International Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD], United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund [UNICEF], World Food Programme [WFP], & World Health Organization [WHO], 2018).

Table 1.
Worldwide food insecurity overview
PhenomenaPercentageMillion people
Undernourished people10750
Food insecure people10750
Obese people13975
Children under five years affected by wasting750
Children under five years stunted22150
Children overweight under five years540

Source: Authors’ development based on FAO (2018)

Food insecurity presents different insecurity degrees. According to its meaning, the first indicator is uncertainty about obtaining food, followed by food quality and quantity reduction and meal skipping. In this phase of moderate food insecurity, people cannot afford a healthy diet because of insufficient money or resources. However, severe food insecurity means no food for one day or more (FAO, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Food Supply Chain: The processes that describe how food from a farm ends up on a table of a consumer, including the processes of production, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal.

Material Flow Analysis: A systematic assessment of the flows and stocks of materials within a system defined in space and time.

Food Waste: Food that completes the food supply chain up to a final product, of good quality and fit for consumption, but still does not get consumed because it is discarded, whether or not after it is left to spoil or expire.

Food Sector: A collection of all activities that facilitate the consumption and supply of food products and services across the world.

Food Loss: Food that gets spilled, spoilt or otherwise lost, or incurs reduction of quality and value during its process in the food supply chain before it reaches its final product stage.

Circular Economy: A concept that entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system.

Sustainability: A concept focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

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